A federal investigation into whether Los Angeles students are denied educational opportunities has prompted the school system to overhaul its approach to teaching immigrant and black students, federal and city officials said Tuesday.
The investigation was part of a probe by the U.S. Department of Education into whether 76 public school districts nationwide comply with civil rights law.
Among the findings, the department concluded that the Los Angeles Unified School District was classifying students as proficient in English though they couldn’t speak the language, federal officials told The Wall Street Journal. “Those students had been languishing in limbo,” said Russlynn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights.
The investigation also found that black students
have limited access to technology and library resources. In addition, black students
“were subject to unfair discipline,” Ms. Ali said, and had higher suspension and expulsion rates
than other students
Under its pact with the Education Department, Los Angeles agreed to boost college preparatory services for minority students and improve English training for students whose first language isn’t English, according to a copy of the agreement.
The agreement also includes extra training for teachers, and outreach to parents whose children are learning English. In addition, it calls for a greater effort to identify black students who are eligible for the district’s special programs for talented and gifted students.
“Los Angeles has a long and proud history as a magnet for immigrants,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a press conference. But, he said, “we still have a long way to go before we see that [minority students] are consistently getting what they need.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and schools Superintendent John Deasy hailed the cooperative approach to creating the plan, but noted that no extra funding would be provided to implement it. Mr. Deasy said the district is engaged in a “profound struggle with funding.”
Like many of America’s school districts, Los Angeles has been forced to severely cut its budget, end programs and lay off teachers as state political leaders are deadlocked in a budget battle that will likely bring more cuts to education next year.
More than 200,000 of the district’s 671,648 students are classified as “English language learners,” meaning they need help learning English. The district has more than 60,000 black students.